Incredible late drama at Torquay United
- Credit: Dave Crawford/PPAUK
You just couldn’t dream it up!
Torquay United snatched yet another 'Gary-Time' winner, this time in the seventh minute of stoppage-time, when Scott Boden headed home man-of-the-match Adam Randell's cross to beat Aldershot Town in a belter of a finish at Plainmoor.
Gary Johnson's Gulls, who had salvaged a 2-2 draw in the 98th minute at the weekend, thought victory had been taken away from them moments before, when referee Daniel Lamport first gave a penalty and then rescinded it just as captain Asa Hall was about to take it.
Furious at that decision, United then picked themselves up and forced a precious winner that keeps them on top of the National League with six games to go.
They had swept into a deserved early lead through Hall's eleventh goal of the season, from another Randell cross, only to give the Shots a soft equaliser for their defender Kodi Lyons-Foster.
But strong second-half pressure seemed to have been for nothing until that amazing finish.
Johnson made one change from the starting XI against Notts County (2-2) at the weekend.
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In came Billy Waters to partner Boden up front, with Connor Lemonheigh-Evans switching to midfield, where Matt Buse dropped to the bench.
Waters and Boden immediately struck up a good partnership, and it should have produced a goal after less than half a minute.
Jake Andrews and Boden set up a great chance for Waters, who beat former Gulls’ defender Jamie Sendles-White, only for Mitch Walker to save when Waters was clear with only the keeper to beat.
But United did not have to wait long for a goal.
In the 12th minute, Waters and Boden again worked well together, this time down the right, setting up Randell for a cross.
It was almost a carbon-copy of the move which produced the late winner (1-0) a Sutton recently, but this time Hall met it with his boot instead of his head and sent a first-time volley past Walker…1-0.
It was the skipper's eleventh goal of the season.
At that point United were well on top and Aldershot had barely had a kick.
But only five minutes after the Gulls' goal, they handed one back to the visitors.
Lyons-Foster had so much space in the goalmouth that he could hardly miss with an eight-yard header from Lewis Kinsella's diagonal free-kick from the left…1-1.
That equaliser visibly lifted the Shots and prompted a scrappy spell of play by United, who started looking for more difficult passes than the ones which were on.
In the 35th minute, Randell was unlucky with a powerful shot which Walker did well to parry low down, although Andrews should have done better than send the follow-up over the bar from close-range.
If the scoreline was frustrating for Torquay, worse was to follow when Joe Lewis went down feeling his left backside 'cheek' after clearing the ball, off balance, over the Pop Side.
Twice he continued after treatment, but he finally admitted defeat and Gary Warren took his place just before the half-time whistle.
United piled it on in the second half and were unlucky not to regain the lead through Warren twice and Boden, who was played through by Waters in the 60th minute - Walker, having an outstanding night, saved again off his line.
Johnson sent on Lucas Tomlinson for Waters in the 66th minute, but the on-loan Bristol Rovers winger could not get into the game until he finally cut in from the right and tested Walker low down in the 82nd minute.
It wasn't until the 87th minute that Covolan had to make his first serious save since the Shots' goal, when he dived to his right to hold a Toby Edser header as Town tried to catch United on the break.
And then, with Olaf Koszela on for Moxey, came that extraordinary extended stoppage-time.
It had only just started when Lemonheigh-Evans, set up by Andrews, touched the ball over Walker, who flattened him in the six-yard box.
Referee Lamport, well placed, had a good look before pointing to the spot.
Hall was just preparing to take the penalty when Aldershot's protesting players finally persuaded Mr Lamport to talk to linesman Steven Annis.
The outcome was a change of mind, prompting furious protests from Torquay players and their touchline team - Andrews was booked for his dissent.
But this Torquay team never take 'No' for an answer.
In the seventh minute of stoppage-time, still refusing to accept a point, Randell produced one final piece of quality, an inswinging cross from the right and there was Boden to flick a sumptuous glancing header from the near-post inside the far…2-1.
Cue celebrations that might have done for promotion itself..!
Torquay United (4-4-2): Covolan; Wynter, Sherring, Lewis (Warren 45), Moxey (Koszela 88); Randell, Lemonheigh-Evans, Hall, Andrews; Waters (Tomlinson 66), Boden; subs not used - MacDonald, Buse.
Booked: Andrews 90+2, Boden 90+6, Wynter 90+8.
Aldershot Town (4-4-2): Walker; Fowler, Sendles-White, Lyons-Foster, Kinsella; Anderson, Rees, Edser, Nouble (Bettamer 82); Miller (Kandi 63), Panayiotou; subs not used - Ogie, Tanner, Hinds.
Booked: Miller 63, Kinsella 90+5.
Referee: Daniel Lamport (Reading).